Novel pharmacological targets for the rhythm control management of atrial fibrillation

Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Dec;132(3):300-13. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2011.08.002. Epub 2011 Aug 17.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a growing clinical problem associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Development of safe and effective pharmacological treatments for AF is one of the greatest unmet medical needs facing our society. In spite of significant progress in non-pharmacological AF treatments (largely due to the use of catheter ablation techniques), anti-arrhythmic agents (AADs) remain first line therapy for rhythm control management of AF for most AF patients. When considering efficacy, safety and tolerability, currently available AADs for rhythm control of AF are less than optimal. Ion channel inhibition remains the principal strategy for termination of AF and prevention of its recurrence. Practical clinical experience indicates that multi-ion channel blockers are generally more optimal for rhythm control of AF compared to ion channel-selective blockers. Recent studies suggest that atrial-selective sodium channel block can lead to safe and effective suppression of AF and that concurrent inhibition of potassium ion channels may potentiate this effect. An important limitation of the ion channel block approach for AF treatment is that non-electrical factors (largely structural remodeling) may importantly determine the generation of AF, so that "upstream therapy", aimed at preventing or reversing structural remodeling, may be required for effective rhythm control management. This review focuses on novel pharmacological targets for the rhythm control management of AF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / metabolism
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Catheter Ablation / methods
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Ion Channels